Information on Heath Spotted-orchid

Common Name: Heath Spotted-orchid
Scientific Name: Dactylorhiza maculata
Irish Name: Na circíní
Family Group: Orchidaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period


Click for list of all flowering by month
Heath Spotted-orchid could sometimes be confused with:

Spotted-orchid, Common,

From May through to August this wildflower blooms on peaty and acid soils and is not usually found on calcareous or neutral soil unless it is rooted onto a hummock of peat.  It is quite a variable orchid, best appreciated when viewed through a hand lens, but can usually be distinguished from other similar plants by its lower lip having three uneven lobes, the central being smaller. Its flowers are usually pale pink, pale purple or white and their petals are decorated by beautiful patterns of dark streaks and spots.  The plant reaches about 50cm high with its stems sheathed by narrow, lanceolate, dark-spotted leaves, while its lower leaves are larger and broader.  It is a native plant belonging to the family Orchidaceae. 

My first record of this Orchid is in the Burren, Co Clare in 1981 and I photographed it at Glenmalure, Co Wicklow in 2008. 

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

Spotted-orchid, Heath
Spotted-orchid, Heath

Similar to Common Spotted Orchid but unlike that plant, Heath Spotted Orchid is usually restricted to growing in damp, acid soils on heaths and moorland. 

To learn more about our Irish orchids, I would heartily recommend a really superb book on the subject which is published by the Collins Press and entitled 'Ireland's Wild Orchids - a field guide'. 

Each of our native orchids is beautifully illustrated by the gifted botanical artist, Susan Sex and is an exquisite representation of an amazing plant; Susan's illustrations are complemented by carefully-chosen words from our National Botanic Gardens orchid specialist, Brendan Sayers. Susan's illustrations of key features of our native orchids are extremely useful when trying to identify a species and Brendan's descriptions help to broaden one's understanding of this complex and intriguing subject, and lead one nearer to making a possible identification. He also contributes information on the conservation of these magnificent little plants and gives details of where they might be found. Please seek out this masterpiece from your usual bookseller or find it on http://www.collinspress.ie/irelands-wild-orchids.html